By Mike London
WINSTON-SALEM — Ricky Holt is a new inductee into the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County High School Sports of Fame.
“Going into a Hall of Fame just means I’m getting old,” Holt said with a laugh. “The clock is ticking.”
Holt, 61, was recognized for his work as a coach and administrator in Winston-Salem, but the athletic days that served as his life’s foundation were spent at Salisbury High and Catawba College.
Holt grew up in Salisbury’s Jersey City neighborhood, and it’s still important to him. Last fall, he arranged for a Little Library to be placed at Jersey City Park where donations of books and school supplies can be made.
Holt was a rugged, muscular youngster in high school in the 1970s and competed in basketball, football and track and field for the Salisbury Hornets.
He was versatile enough in track and field to compete in the discus, the hurdles and the relays. In the spring of 1978, his senior year, he placed third in the discus (129 feet, 10 inches) and helped Salisbury win the Rowan County Championships at North Rowan’s Eagle Stadium.
He was a workhorse running back for Salisbury football teams and led the Hornets in rushing.
“The most memorable football game for me would be time we beat North Rowan 2-0 (the fall of 1976),” Holt said. “That was a fun night.”
On the basketball court, Holt retains sweet memories of Salisbury’s playoff run at the end of the 1977-78 season. Salisbury lost five games that season in the North Piedmont Conference and got blown out by 25 points in the regular-season finale against Thomasville. But then they got hot at the right time. The Hornets won three straight in the conference tournament and three more in the district tournament and found themselves in the eight-team 3A State Tournament being played in Durham. They won their first game in Durham, but lost in the semifinals.
“Just to be competing in the 3A state tournament and to see players like (Washington’s) Dominique Wilkins and Alvis Rogers, even though we didn’t get to play against them, that was something I won’t forget,” Holt said. “We made a run when no one ever thought we could, and that was very satisfying. I’m still friends with guys from that team.”
The Hornets played four games against Ashbrook High superstar James Worthy, future NBA Hall of Famer, during Holt’s time at Salisbury.
“What I remember about Worthy is I was trying to catch up to him once on a fastbreak when he took off in the air,” Holt said. “He didn’t dunk it, just laid it in, but I’d never seen anyone get that high over the rim before. Coach (Bobby) Pharr called a timeout, and I remember standing there and thinking, ‘There’s not a whole lot Coach can say that’s going to help us guard Worthy.'”
Holt was at Catawba playing in the annual Christmas basketball tournament when he was approached by Catawba head football coach Warren Klawiter.
“He said it would be a good idea if I came to Catawba, and we started talking about it,” Holt said. “Catawba turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made.”
Holt didn’t find stardom at Catawba, but he was a steady contributor and earned a degree in physical education and health. He graduated in December 1982.
“More good memories,” Holt said. “We beat Elon when they were the defending national champions, and I got to play against a national-championship Carson-Newman team. We competed against some of the best in the country at that level.”
After he graduated, Holt still wasn’t convinced that coaching was the road he wanted to travel, but persuasive Rick Hampton would change his mind.
“I had a job, but Rick kept calling and calling and kept telling me I’d make a good coach,” Holt said. “I finally told him I’d give it a try, and that’s how I got my coaching start.”
It was in 1985 that Holt made his debut as a teacher/coach at West Rowan Junior High. He taught P.E. and coached track and basketball.
His next stop was A.L. Brown High. He stayed in Kannapolis nine years. He was an assistant football coach for the Wonders, learning a lot about the pursuit of excellence from head coach Bruce Hardin. Holt coached girls track for three seasons. He was the head basketball coach for six seasons and coached talented teams in the 1990s. He was South Piedmont Conference Coach of the Year twice and Cabarrus County Coach of the Year three times.
In the summer of 1997, Holt left A.L. Brown for Carver High in Winston-Salem. He coached football, basketball and track. Carver won football state championships in 1998 and 2002 and won a girls basketball state title in 2001.
In 2004, Holt embraced a new challenge, athletic director and P.E. teacher at a brand new school — Winston-Salem Preparatory Academy.
“People didn’t think it was going to amount to anything,” Holt said.“So it was a personal challenge for me to get things going. The first task was to find coaches (including boys basketball coach Andre Gould and girls track coach Derrick Speas). You have to get good people and get them in the right places. The next thing was getting everything in place that an athletic program has to have in order for the kids to play.”
Instead of being a dead end, Winston-Salem Prep provided many of the highlights of Holt’s career.
“The boys basketball program started out as a group of ninth-graders playing a jayvee schedule,” Holt said. “We played varsity the second year. The third year we were eliminated by Thomasville. By the fourth year, we beat Thomasville and went on to win the 1A state championship. We shocked a lot of people with how far we came in a short time.”
As Winston-Salem Prep’s AD from 2004-16, Holt got to watch the school win five state championships in boys basketball, three in girls track and two in girls basketball. There were 35 individual state champions on his watch.
“We all worked together and it was never just one person doing everything,” Holt said.